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When I was a kid, I would put on Verve jazz records my Dad had and try to play along with the greats; Oscar Peterson, Wes Montgomery, Ahmad Jamal just to name a few. I would get home from school, put the albums on, and play in a very loud, free blowing way. There was no one listening (unless you count the neighbors) and I would just jam, filling in the spaces with sound and being inspired by the riffs coming out of the speakers. So allow me to pass this idea on to you in a more controlled form.

For the beginning improviser, the hardest part is to understand the idea of these things-

  • Phrasing
  • Riffs
  • Space

What I think many of us do is just put the horn in our mouth and start moving our fingers without any thought as to how we¬†fit into the music. So the place to start is with Miles Davis’ iconic masterpiece, Freddie the Freeloader from the album Kind of Blue.

Start learning the tune. Then play through the scales. Remember that these scales match up to the corresponding chord symbol at the top of the lead sheet. Then play the tune along with the recording on YouTube. Wait for the Miles Davis solo. It happens at about 2:12 on the video. Notice the amount of space he leaves in the solo he plays. That is where you fit in! Put notes in between his phrases. That’s it. Its easy, his notes are inspiring, and its a launching pad to go where you want to go as a saxophone improviser, and a great way to get inside the blues form.

The other advice for this exercise is to stay with the notes in the scales…for now! We want to stay inside the changes as a way of making a more melodic. Inside the changes mean that we don’t go outside of the scales…for now! Later on we will add more notes for deeper texture. below are links to pdfs of the tunes, scales, and the video. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

For Alto and Baritone sax-

Freddie the Freeloader Eb

Freddie Changes Eb

For Tenor and Soprano sax-

Freddie the FreeloaderBb

Freddie Changes Bb







Happy Jams to Y’all!